It is fascinating that almost every religion in the world believes something about Jesus. Jesus had such an undeniable effect on the world that He is rarely questioned as a real historical figure. Consequently, almost every religion, and most people for that matter, believe something about Jesus. With that said, Christianity is different from every other religion in that it claims that Jesus was fully God and fully man. No other religion makes this claim about Jesus. In fact, Muslims believe that Jesus was only a prophet, Mormons believe that Jesus was the literal son of God who became a god himself, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus is the highest created being, and the list goes on.
With so many different beliefs about Jesus, it is logically impossible for all of them to be true. Jesus cannot be only a prophet and at the same time be fully God. Consequently, it is impossible for all religions to be true, because the absolute statements they make completely contradict one another. Thus, the Christian claims not only that Jesus is fully God, but also that every other system of belief is wrong. The Christian can make these claims not solely because they are logically consistent, but primarily because this is what God has revealed in His Word.
Every individual must grapple with the reality that Jesus claims to be God. When speaking with the Jews, Jesus makes the statement, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). This “I am” statement is the same statement that God used when Moses asked who he should say sent him to Pharaoh and the Israelites (Exodus 3:13-15). This is God’s way of saying, “I exist because I exist.” In other words, God is communicating that He is the uncreated One who has always existed. Thus, Jesus claims to be God by making the same statement. This is further supported by the fact that the Jews picked up stones to kill Jesus in response to His claim (John 8:59). They understood that Jesus was claiming to be God because the Mosaic Law commanded that they stone those who commit blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16; John 10:33). Thus, it is undeniable that Jesus claimed to be God.
Much more time could be dedicated to defending the deity of Jesus; however, now we must turn to ponder the necessity of God taking on the flesh of man. In doing so, we will consider God’s inability to ignore sin, the eternal punishment that sin requires, and the necessity of a perfect, eternal substitute.
To understand the necessity of Jesus being fully God and fully man, we must start with understanding the nature of God’s holiness and justice. After the fall, Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden and consequently the direct presence of the Lord (Gen 4:22-24). The Lord had mercy on them by not ending their lives immediately, but they could no longer enjoy His direct presence. God’s holiness forbids Him from being in the presence of sin. This can be seen clearly in Exodus 33:18-23 as God tells Moses that man cannot see God and live. Likewise, when the prophet Isaiah encountered the Lord, the seraphim around Him were saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts,” and Isaiah responded by recognizing his sin and the uncleanliness of the people around him in light of this holiness (Isaiah 6:1-7). Additionally, the scriptures speak clearly about God’s justice. Psalm 9:7-8 reads, “But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness.” Thus, because God is perfectly holy and just, He cannot ignore or look past sin. This would contradict the very character of His nature.
When God created Adam and Eve, it was clear that there would be punishment for disobedience. This punishment was given in the form of death (Gen 2:17). Death in scriptures refers not only to a physical death, but also to a spiritual and eternal one (Ephesians 2:1 and Revelation 20:10, 13-15, respectively). This is because sin is a violation against an eternal God. Therefore, the punishment for sin must also be eternal. In 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9, Paul writes:
. . . when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.
Notice that the punishment for those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel is “eternal destruction.” This is the only punishment worthy of satisfying the justice of an eternal God. Consequently, man could never pay the eternal debt that is owed to God in order to escape eternal destruction.
Therefore, if man is to escape the eternal destruction of God, he needs a perfect, eternal substitute to pay the price on his behalf. This substitute must be fully man, because it is man who is indebted to God (Hebrews 10:4-7). Additionally, the substitute must be perfect and eternal to pay the eternal debt in full for everyone who believes. Thus, the substitute must also be fully God because God is the only uncreated, eternally perfect Being in existence. Only the uncreated, eternally perfect Son can pay our debt in full by taking on flesh and suffering God’s wrath in our place.
Consequently, if Jesus Christ was just a man, we have lost everything; our sins are unforgiven, because a created man is incapable of satisfying an eternal debt. As we celebrate Christmas in the coming weeks, may we be reminded of its true meaning. The eternal Son took on flesh to bear our sins in His body, thus satisfying God’s justice and reconciling us to our Father. That is truly good news.